No breakthrough in talks to end US government shutdown
Washington: Senior Donald Trump administration officials and Democratic congressional staffers have met without achieving any breakthrough in ending a partial government shutdown and breaking a deadlock over funding for a proposed US-Mexico border wall.
A readout provided by the office of Vice President Mike Pence, who led the administration’s team, said on Saturday “the conversation was productive” and both sides agreed to meet again on Sunday, Xinhua news agency reported.
US President Donald Trump is demanding over $5 billion in border security to deliver his signature campaign promise to build a wall along the US southern border with Mexico, which has strongly rejected by Democrats.
Their disagreement has led to a budget impasse and a partial government shutdown, which enters its 15th day Saturday, affecting nine cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies as well as jobs and paychecks of some 800,000 federal employees.
The Pence readout said there was “no in depth conversation about dollar figure” for funding the wall but “the priorities for security.” Pence also reiterated Trump’s position that “we need funding for the border wall”.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, also attended the meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building along with Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
They were negotiating with senior staff for congressional Democratic leadership.
Nielsen briefed the negotiators on the situation on the US-Mexico border, according to the readout, adding that the Democratic side “requested further details in writing on the needs” of her department.
Trump dug in on his proposal again Saturday morning, tweeting that “we are working hard at the Border, but we need a WALL!”
The President said on Friday after meeting with congressional Democratic leaders that he was prepared for a partial government shutdown to last for months or even years if they don’t agree to provide funding for border security, including the wall.
He also signalled a possibility of using emergency powers to build the wall without congressional approval and necessary funds.
House Democrats passed a spending package earlier this week, including a stopgap bill to keep the Homeland Security Department funded at the current level until February 8, and measures to fund the eight other cabinet departments affected by the shutdown through September 30, the end of the fiscal year.
However, those measures are unlikely to be taken up by the Republican-held Senate or be signed by Trump as they do not provide money for Trump’s border wall.